Environmental strategy

Erste Group’s environmental strategy is built on four pillars:

  • implementation of environmental management systems
  • integration of ecological criteria into banking products and services
  • implementation of a supply chain management system for all products and services needed to run the banking business
  • co-operation with environmental NGOs

Environmental footprint

*) In 2020, the environmental data of all Austrian savings banks of Erste Group were taken into account, while in 2019 only those with more than 150 employees were covered. The extension of the reporting scope by 30 Austrian savings banks led to the following increases in environmental data: total energy consumption 17,226 MWh (thereof consumption of electrical energy: 6,596 MWh, consumption of heating energy 7,577 MWh), copy paper consumption 55 t (of which 9.4 t recycled paper), CO2e emissions 2,054 t.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Overall, Erste Group’s reported total CO2e emissions (Scope 1 + Scope 2) were reduced by 7,518 tonnes (-11.6%), which was mainly attributable to efficiency measures in Romania (-5,401 tonnes CO2) and Hungary (-1,810 tonnes CO2). The increase in emissions in Austria (+20.2%) was due to the expanded scope of entities.

Total data (Erste Group) include data of direct and indirect holdings of Erste Group outside its core markets.
CO2e: CO2 -equivalents are the sum of all greenhouse gas emissions, e.g. carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxide
Scope 1: Direct greenhouse gas emissions from burnt natural resources (e.g. heating oil, petrol)
Scope 2: Indirect greenhouse gas emissions from energy production (e.g. electric energy, district heating)

Energy consumption

The reduction in energy consumption for electrical energy and for heating and hot water preparation is predominately ensured by new, energy-efficient headquarter administrative buildings. However, branches are mostly located in rented premises and therefore are limited in their choice of heating systems efficiency measures that can lead to improvements. Erste Campus, for example, is supplied exclusively with nonfossil energy (district heating and cooling and green electricity). In 2020, the use of district cooling was reduced significantly by 39.2% (2019: 27.7%) to 1.0 GWh (2019: 1.7 GWh) through improved use of cold groundwater for cooling. The construction of a photovoltaic system on the roof of the Erste Campus began in December 2020. The 764 modules covering roughly 2,000 m2 will supply approximately 250,000 kWh per year, which is roughly equivalent to the consumption of 5 branches or 125 households. This installation is an important step to make the main building of Erste Group even more climate-friendly, in addition to measures already taken, such as the use of 100% green electricity and the use of rainwater and district cooling.

Environmental targets

As a bank, Erste Group is not using a lot of different natural resources. The main resources Erste Group consumes are: electric energy, energy for heating and warm water, fuel for business cars and paper (especially copy paper). Consumption of water and production of waste is not relevant and will therefore not be reported at all. To be able to manage the consumption of natural resources effectively, it is necessary to have a proper system in place on how to measure the consumption.

Based on the data for 2018, new relative rather than absolute reduction targets for the following areas were set for 2019 until 2021: electric and heating energy consumption per square meter of office floor space (kWh/m2) or CO2e-emissions per employee, consumption of copy paper per employee (kg/FTE), and the share of hybrid or electric business cars.

Environmental targets for 2021

Implementation of environmental management systems

While the implementation of environmental management systems has been postponed at the Holding and Erste Bank Österreich, ISO 14001 and/or ISO 50001 certifications have been completed in Croatia, Slovakia and Hungary. Of the Austrian savings banks, Steiermärkische Sparkasse has been ISO 14001 certified and Allgemeine Sparkasse Oberösterreich ISO 50001 certified. Dornbirner Sparkasse has been conducting ÖKOPROFIT certification on an annual basis since 2012.

It is planned that the main local banking subsidiaries will implement a certified energy management system in the years ahead. Use of just one energy management system (ISO 50001) is due to the fact that financial service providers do not consume any other resources apart from energy and paper, and their use of water or waste disposal is of no relevance.

Measures to reduce office paper consumption

To minimise its environmental impact, Erste Group preferably buys recycled copy paper and continuously runs paper-saving initiatives in its banking operations.

The trend towards digitalisation helps to reduce paper consumption. On the online platform George, customers may choose to waive printouts of account statements as Erste Group's mobile banking offers an easy-to-use archive of all account transactions.

Current efforts aim at processing all standard banking transactions electronically wherever possible, which will accelerate back office procedures and make customer service more efficient. This improves not only the customer experience but also reduces paper consumption.

Ecological sourcing of products and services

Erste Group Procurement (EGP) continued its efforts to include environmental criteria in its purchasing activities. Since 2014, the “Ethical and Environmental Code of Conduct for Suppliers of Goods and Services” of EGP has been applied across the group. Supplier evaluation criteria include besides economic criteria also sustainability and environmental aspects. In addition, EGP staff must pass the online test of the “Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS)” based in England.

Bank products with ecological benefits

Erste Group continuously develops products and services for its customers that incorporate sustainability criteria, including in-vestment products and financing. Especially Erste’s Asset Management company contributes to this targets and is market leader with sustainable investment funds. 

More information

Other environmental initiatives

Across the group, existing lighting systems have been replaced with LED systems wherever this made sense from an economical and technical point of view. At Erste Campus, water from large rainwater cisterns has been used for watering green spaces and flushing toilets since 2018.

In 2020, Erste Bank Restaurantbetriebe switched to a reusable system for coffee cups at all restaurants it operates at Erste Campus. This initiative will save at least 85,000 disposable coffee to-go cups per year.

One element of Erste Group's environmental strategy is cooperation with environmental NGOs. They offer access to their local and international expertise and provide Erste Group with valuable support in its efforts to improve its ecological sustainability. An example of this is the close cooperation between Erste Asset Management and WWF in the area of ecologically particularly sustainable investment funds. With an increase in value of 77% in 2020, the ERSTE WWF Stock Environment Fund underlined that sustainability and financial performance can be combined.

Slovenská sporiteľňa and Allgemeine Sparkasse Oberösterreich keep bee hives on the rooftops of their headquarters, following the example of Erste Campus in Vienna. In addition to producing excellent honey, these bee hives also serve as a visible symbol of the need for nature conservation.

For further information, please refer to Erste Group's (consolidated) non-financial report (NFI report 2020).